Eight years ago, the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal partnered with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) to evaluate policies and regulations affecting free speech rights at North Carolina colleges and universities. In 2010, no North Carolina college or university, public or private, received FIRE’s “green light” rating. This meant that all North Carolina institutions had some sort of policy that seriously imperiled speech.
Earlier this year, Jenna Robinson, president of the Martin Center, and Azhar Majeed, vice president of policy reform at FIRE, collaborated to reevaluate speech and assembly protections for students and faculty in North Carolina. Their findings, published in the new report “Do North Carolina Students Have Freedom of Speech?: A Review of Campus Speech Codes,” show that North Carolina colleges and universities have made substantive progress in their protection of First Amendment rights on campus.
Of 37 institutions studied, 11 improved their policy ratings and 23 remained the same. Only three institutions received lower ratings than in 2010.
“It’s very exciting that North Carolina has become a leader on free speech policy. No other state has as many ‘green light’ ratings—that’s a significant accomplishment given where we were just ten years ago,” said Jenna Robinson.
However, there is still room for progress on most campuses. Eleven colleges and universities received a “yellow light” rating, and 17 institutions earned the worst, “red light,” rating. Co-authors Robinson and Majeed encourage North Carolina colleges and universities to further improve their speech code ratings by revising their existing regulations and adopting principled policy statements regarding freedom of expression on campus, similar to the Chicago Statement.